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Dusk, and a small shape comes into the yard. I blink and frown and narrow my eyes. It’s urgent and gliding on leggy pins; fluid and nervy and rolling like a ball beside palls of sow thistle, bramble and burdock. Whatever this is, it keeps jagged company.

Then a surge of recognition. A hedgehog.

Hello stranger.

We don’t see hedgehogs here. Perhaps there are some in the village, but years go by without the merest contact. Sometimes there are skins like bladders burst on the tarmac. I stop the car to speir at them, but their eyes (when they have them) are dry and parchy; their legs adrift and socketless. There’s nothing in these broken shapes to reveal a true nature; just pats of bake-meat for the mice to gnaw.

Even I can remember the hedgehog in her heyday. We found them on the smithy road and up beyond the kirk. My father recalls them in a tide; it was their absence that was notable in those days. And his father could hardly imagine the farm without the trail of urchins at every dykeback.

So it’s come to this; a small, half-forgotten loner on the edge of darkness.

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